Angels relievers are working plenty of overtime
Coello called up Saturday, could be 20th arm used by club this season
CHICAGO -- Relievers, by nature, live sporadic lifestyles. But on the Angels -- with three important relievers still on the disabled list, another one still ailing and two starting pitchers currently away from the rotation -- it's at a completely different level.
• Michael Kohn, 13 months removed from Tommy John surgery, operated under strict rules during his first month in Triple-A: If he cleaned up an inning, he wouldn't come out to start the next one; and if he pitched one day, he automatically had the next day off. On the Angels, he's appeared in five out of the last six games heading into Saturday.
• Dane De La Rosa, a 30-year-old with 12 1/3 innings of Major League experience heading into 2013, had appeared in 12 of the last 21, eight of the last 14 and four of the last six. No wonder some in the organization know him simply as "Everyday Dane."
• Garrett Richards and his precious, 24-year-old right arm were used for short-inning relief early in the season, then moved to the rotation when Jered Weaver broke his left elbow, then transitioned back to the bullpen because the Angels needed help late in games. After taking four turns as a starter, he's appeared in only three games this month, totaling 2 1/3 innings.
• Ernesto Frieri, the closer on a team that has won only 13 of its first 35 games, has the most infrequent usage of them all. He didn't pitch at all from April 15-20, then appeared in three straight games. He had four days off leading into Thursday against the Astros, then recorded a five-out save that night -- already his second this season -- and pitched the ninth in Friday's 7-5 win.
"You just have to be ready every day, physically and mentally," Frieri said in Spanish. "Every day, I learn more about this role, on what works for me, and I think I'm handling it fine."
Robert Coello was called up in place of outfielder Scott Cousins on Saturday. If he appears in a game, he'll be the 20th pitcher used by the club already this season. They've never used that many so early -- but they've had little choice.
Weaver is still out with a broken left elbow, Tommy Hanson is on the restricted list, Kevin Jepsen has been sidelined since April 11 with a strained lat, Scott Downs hurt his right foot on Thursday, Sean Burnett has forearm soreness and Ryan Madson is still working through the final stages of Tommy John surgery.
Pitching coach Mike Butcher checks in with his relievers every day to make sure their arms are holding up fine to these unusual circumstances. So far, they've been fine. All he asks is that they're completely honest, and even if they aren't, Butcher said he has a good feel for when he needs to pull back the reins.
He doesn't look at the current situation as over-extending guys.
"I look at it as an opportunity for a lot of guys, to come up here and find their niche," Butcher said. "… A lot of guys, through injuries, create their own opportunities. There's been a lot of opportunities this year for several guys to come up here and show what they're capable of doing. Some guys have taken advantage of that, obviously."
Madson's brief outing encouraging to Angels
CHICAGO -- Ryan Madson threw a very encouraging simulated game in Arizona on Saturday morning, prompting the Angels to stick with their best-case scenario for the 32-year-old right-hander: Pitch in a rehab game for Class A Inland Empire on Monday, then again on Wednesday, and perhaps join the Angels' bullpen after that.
That can change by the day, of course, but manager Mike Scioscia and pitching coach Mike Butcher watched video of Madson's one-inning outing and felt he threw very well, mixing in good changeups and going up to 94 mph with his fastball.
"One thing is, you don't want a guy down there wasting bullets if he's ready," Scioscia said. "He does need a little work, but he doesn't need to be stretched out to 30 pitches. If he's showing he can bounce back, we can monitor his usage here [in the big leagues]. I'd rather have him twice a week than not at all."
Jimenez makes debut as Halos first baseman
CHICAGO -- Luis Jimenez still doesn't even own his own first-base mitt. Mark Trumbo gave him a brand new one, but it isn't broken in yet. So for Saturday's game, when Jimenez made his first career start at first base, he used the one Albert Pujols deploys for games.
Jimenez got some minimal work at first base during Spring Training and played an inning there in the Minors in 2007. That's the extent of his experience at the position. But with Pujols still working through pain in his right knee and left foot -- something the cold weather of Chicago doesn't help -- and an opposing lefty on the mound for the first time since May 1, Halos manager Mike Scioscia put Jimenez there in order to use Pujols as the designated hitter and replace J.B. Shuck with Trumbo in left field.
"As long as I do the job, as long as I do what the team needs to win, I'll be OK," Jimenez said. "I just try to do my stuff. Just play the game."
• Jered Weaver (broken left elbow) threw 40 pitches in his second bullpen session on Saturday, incorporating fastballs and changeups, but pitching coach Mike Butcher said they're "still working through some things."
"Right now, we're trying to build arm strength, build endurance and just see where we're going," Butcher said. "It's like a day-to-day thing, where his progression is going to lead. We don't want to rush anything."
• Shortstop Erick Aybar and lefty reliever Scott Downs, both of whom exited Thursday's game with injuries, are on the mend. Aybar took batting practice on Saturday and could return by Monday's series opener against the Royals, if his tight right hamstring continues to improve. Downs, nursing a right foot injury, went through pregame on Saturday and struck out Alejandro De Aza to record the last out of the seventh inning that evening.
• Kevin Jepsen, who's been out since April 11 with a strained right lat, threw a 20-pitch bullpen and said he "felt awesome." Jepsen doesn't have any more pain, but will need to pitch several bullpens and at least face hitters -- perhaps even go out on a rehab assignment -- before getting activated.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.